Elgin Cathedral is one of the most enduring visitor attractions in Moray – Johnson and Boswell visited it on their journey to the Western Isles (1770’s) and Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe was clearly impressed with his visit to Elgin and its Cathedral. Consider Elgin Cathedral as a must see in Moray Speyside. Even if you don’t pay to go inside the Cathedral, you can wander the perimeter fence for some great views.
Elgin Cathedral was founded in 1224 – marking the beginning of a turbulent history. Originally built in a cross shape it appears to have been significantly added to in the late 13th century after a fire in 1270. In 1390, Alexander Stuart, the Wolf of Badenoch took revenge for his excommunication from the church and set Elgin Cathedral alight. Again it was rebuilt, but the reformation and the embracing of Protestantism sealed its demise. The Cathedral no longer had a purpose and fell into disrepair. The stripping of its lead roof didn’t help this. Ironically, the boat carrying the lead to the buyer was too heavy and sank just outside Aberdeen Harbour! Many of the stones were recycled and used in local buildings.
It’s worth the climb up the North Tower, (enter by the South Tower!), as you will be rewarded with views across Elgin and Moray. Note Panns Port to the East – the only remaining port (gateway) to the Cathedral grounds.
Many of the tombs have lions at their feet – some of which have been decapitated. Lions have strong Christian symbolism and this may represent resurrection for the tomb occupant and the beheading may have been to thwart this. Interestingly, the tomb in the corners of The Presbytery has been spared this indignity.
Elgin Cathedral has many interesting gravestones and it’s interesting to wander round and see the professions and the occasional explanations of untimely ends.
The Chapter House has now been restored. Termed chapter as the monks would read a chapter from the bible every day. It is now a popular wedding venue in Elgin.